February 5, 2014

Review: COUNTRY HARDBALL by Steve Weddle

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I'm not a huge fan of straight-up genre fiction. I like my expectations constantly challenged, rather than met. There are works of many genres, classics, that I love, but those works tend to break out of the silos some people seem so intent on creating.

I know what noir is, though I'm less sure about "country noir"; the little I've been exposed to struck me as the mirror image of the cover to Ice-T's HOME INVASION album: a suburban boy's fever dream of beat-up pickup trucks, greasy baseball caps, guns, and meth, often with less depth than Warner Bros. cartoons. See the rustics with their simple ways blow themselves to bits. Thank God you're reading this from the comfort of your hipster neighborhood in the big city. That kind of thing.

So if you're like me, and you hear that Steve Weddle's novel-in-stories COUNTRY HARDBALL is "country noir," believe me when I say that such an easy categorization of his fine book is inadequate.

April 12, 2013

Review: THE ABSENT WOMAN by Marlene Lee

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“I feel flat,” I tried to explain to my friend Jerry the day after I’d seen the old hotel. “I want adventure. I want to accomplish something. I want to live in a fishing village at the edge of the continent. Make mistakes and recover from them. Depend on myself. See what I can do.”

Jerry’s laugh was without amusement. “No one leaves their husband, their kids, their job because of flatness. That’s self-indulgent, Virginia. Adolescent. A luxury most of us cannot afford.”

This exchange encapsulates the tension running throughout Marlene Lee's THE ABSENT WOMAN. Seeking a fulfillment she hasn't found in her marriage, she leaves her husband and two boys and moves to Hilliard, a fishing village north of Seattle. She subleases an apartment in a largely empty, converted hotel from a woman who left Hilliard in a rush, and the woman's belongings and reasons for leaving haunt Virginia as she tries to build a new life.

March 26, 2013

Interview: Steve Weddle, writer and editor of NEEDLE: A MAGAZINE OF NOIR

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Steve Weddle grew up on the Louisiana/Arkansas line, holds an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and currently works for a newspaper group. He lives with his family in Virginia.

In 2009, Weddle and six crime fiction writers created DoSomeDamage, where he blogs weekly.

In 2010, Weddle and John Hornor Jacobs created Needle: A Magazine of Noir, one of the top journals for contemporary crime fiction.

His short fiction has appeared at Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, and A Twist of Noir and in The First Shift, Off the Record, Round Two, and D*cked anthologies.

I've known Steve since our LSU days, when he would hang out at my apartment with Chad Rohrbacher and a few others, play primitive versions of Madden Football, and make snide remarks about my (actually superior) music collection. I probably should have kicked him out more.

SHORY: Hey, aren't you a poet?

March 19, 2013

The Joy of Cutting

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This is not a post about self-injurious behavior.

It's about learning to love cutting words.

March 5, 2013

Interview: Elva Maxine Beach, author of NEUROTICA

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Reposting a 2009 interview I conducted with my great friend Elva Maxine Beach, author of Neurotica.

One reviewer had this to say about Elva Maxine Beach's story cycle, NEUROTICA:
Beach has written a book that will have readers wanting to take their clothes off one minute, squirming with discomfort the next, then being struck by the sadness of humanity. Then wanting to strip again. She covers the many shades of sex, not just the obvious.
I can't say it any better than that. Recently I caught up with my good friend and former LSU MFA cohort Maxine and asked her a few questions about the book, writing, and other things.

SHORY: So how did NEUROTICA come about?

February 20, 2013

Why I quit rating books

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I rated something like 250 books in Goodreads.

The other day I took all the ratings down.

Why?

February 5, 2013

A brainstorming technique

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Get a box.

Bedazzle or spend a fortune if you must, but any box will do.

A shoebox is perfect.

Buy several packs of index cards--blank, lined, colored, whatever.

Then, whenever you have an idea, write it on a card and place it in the box.

Any idea.

Don't self-censor.

A character's name.

A setting.

A single word.

Anything.

Put the card in the box.

Keep cards with you at all times.

Before long, the ideas will start to flow.

You can use a phone app that does much the same thing. I like a real box and real cards.

Google Docs don't work for me. Moleskines don't work for me.

To my mind, there's a certain amount of linearity imposed by Docs or Moleskines. One sentence followed by another sentence.

I prefer a box with loose cards you can rearrange however you like, kind of like the random synapse firings that cause us to dream.

It works for me.